Ohio renters fear eviction as agencies work to disburse millions of dollars in federal assistance before evection moratorium ends

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 9:13 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Thousands of Ohioans say they are concerned about the possibility of eviction in the coming months.

The CDC’s moratorium on evictions ends on July 31, and come August, experts expect a plethora of renters who’ve fallen behind on payments to be kicked out of their homes.

19 Investigates dug deeper to find out just how many Ohioans are really in a dire situation and whether assistance available in our viewing area.

Crystal Jones says the impact the pandemic’s had on her family continues to drag on.

Jones says she lost her job in 2020, when the woman she was a home healthcare aid for died of COVID-19.

“That was just really hard after I lost her,” Jones said.

In the weeks that followed, Jones says she began to draw unemployment assistance to help pay her bills.

But, 18 weeks ago her account was flagged for fraud, and the money stopped coming through.

“Every time I call them they tell me that I just have to wait till they get to my name,” she said.

She’s in the process of getting a new job now, but says she’s already four months behind on rent payments, and she’s worried about what could happen come August.

“Eviction,” she said. “I am going to lose my place to live.”

Next month, landlords like Jones’s will no longer be restricted from evicting tenants who are behind on rent.

“I’ve talked to him and he’s been pretty patient, but he’s getting to the point now where his patience is starting to wear thin,” Jones said.

19 Investigates discovered hundreds of thousands of Ohioans are in a similar situation.

In the Census’s Bureau’s latest survey done in June, nearly 250,000 Ohio renters surveyed said they are not up to date on their rent payments.

A little more than 100,000 renters said they have no confidence they will be able to make their next month’s payment.

And, almost 130- thousand people said it was “very likely” they would be evicted by their landlords in the next two months.

19 Investigates explained to Jones that renters have to fill out the CDC declaration form to delay landlords from evicting.

Jones says she didn’t know she needed to do that until we brought it to her.

However, Marcus Roth with the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio says at this point the form only holds off the eviction process until the end of the month.

“The moratorium was important, but the moratorium by itself really was not going to do much, because it just delays the inevitable,” Roth said.

According to The Eviction Lab -- an organization that’s tracking the issue nationwide -- there are a little more than 3.5 million people renting their homes in Ohio.

The Eviction Lab says Ohio could see a surge of evictions come August, since the state has not implemented any orders to prevent them.

“We’re definitely concerned about it,” Roth said.

However, Roth says the federal dollars are there to avoid a surge of evictions.

For example, in May Governor Mike Dewine signed House Bill 167 to provide $465 million in financial assistance to renters trying to claw their way back after the pandemic.

19 Investigates compiled a list of applications for assistance, based on what county you live in:

You can look up instructions in any other Ohio County on the state’s website.

It’s just taking a long time for the money to be disbursed by local agencies, Roth said.

He says, “In many cases, [agencies] are just overwhelmed, overwhelmed, with applications and in many cases, they’re short-staffed same reasons that everybody else is short-staffed right now, because of the pandemic.”

That’s why he says it was important that the moratorium was extended until the end of July.

“You don’t need to get evicted for non-payment right now. There’s so much help available,” he said.

People are also still learning they have to specifically ask for the help.

“I didn’t know that that it was available,” Jones said. “I didn’t know that until you told me today about it.”

The important thing is that you get in line as soon as possible if you need relief.

Depending on qualifications, the federal dollars can be used to pay up to 12 months of someone’s rental arrears, which is good news for both the renter and the landlord.

“We really want to make sure that it gets to the people that really need it quickly,” Roth said. “And, it really is a win-win situation, because you know, landlords get all these arrears paid off, their tenants get current and their tenants are able to stay in their homes.”

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